PREM SIṄGH HOTĪ, BĀBĀ (1882-1954), historian and biographer, was born on 2 November 1882 at Hotī, near Mardān, in North-West Frontier Province, now part of Pakistan. His father Gaṇḍā Siṅgh, a man of means, traced his ancestry back to Bhallā family of Goindvāl, in Amritsar district, to which noted Sikh savant Bhāī Gurdās belonged. One of his ancestors, Bābā Kāhn Siṅgh, had moved to the western frontier during the reign of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh, who had granted jāgīrs to his soldiers in that turbulent Paṭhān territory. When this northwestern region was finally annexed by the British in 1849, the jāgīr which Bābā Prem Siṅgh's father had inherited from his forefathers was confiscated. But Sar Buland Khān, the Muslim Nawāb of Hotī, gave him lands within his own territory. The family continued to enjoy the patronage of the Nawābs of Hotī until it migrated to Patiālā in 1948.

         Prem Siṅgh was reared on Sikh teaching and folklore. As a young boy, he was especially fascinated by stories of Sikh valour and heroism. A meeting with Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh, Sikh poet and scholar, at the first Sikh Educational Conference convened at Gujrāṅwālā on 18-19 April 1908 proved crucial in determining the calling of his life. After the conference, he took Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh to visit his homeland the beautiful country of the trigger-happy Yūsafzaī and Bārakzaī Paṭhāns, and showed him round important historical places commemorating Sikh heroes. Bhāī Vīr Siṅgh prompted him to write biographies of Sikh heroes who had fallen fighting for the glory of the Khālsā. Prem Siṅgh took to the task with a rare zeal and biographies flowed from his pen prolifically, establishing this genre firmly in Punjabi writing and creating a new interest in Sikh history. The series began with a biography of Akālī Phūlā Siṅgh (1914), followed by those of Mahārājā Raṇjīt Siṅgh (1918), Kaṅvar Nau Nihāl Siṅgh (1927), Sardār Harī Siṅgh Nalvā (1937), Mahārājā Sher Siṅgh (1951) and Nawāb Kapūr Siṅgh (1952). His Khālsā Rāj de Usrayye "Builders of the Khālsā Rāj" ( 1942 and Vol. II in 1944), and Khālsā Rāj de Badesī Kārinde "Foreign employees of the Sikh Kingdom " (1945) were collections of shorter biographies. His lives of Bhāī Gurdās, Bhāī Sukkhā Siṅgh and Mahārājā Duleep Siṅgh remained unfinished. In 1952, he was honoured by the Punjabi Department of the Paṭiālā and East Punjab States Union Government for his monumental work for the advancement of Punjabi letters.

        Bābā Prem Siṅgh died at Paṭiālā on 10 January 1954.

Sudarshan Siṅgh